Thursday, April 12, 2007

Idiot Imus, Idiot CBS and More Idiot Hypocrisy

Don Imus was fired from CBS Radio this afternoon. This came the day after MSNBC cancelled the simulcast of his radio program. While I personally won't miss Imus, and I would never defend the ugly comments he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team, I am a bit uncomfortable about his dismissal.

First, Les Moonves allegedly made the "final decision" about Imus' fate. Of course, when his boss, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, said in an interview earlier in the day that he expected Moonves to "do the right thing," there was no chance that Moonves would have continued to support Imus. Moonves has a host of his own problems. The daytime schedule is losing viewers, the morning news show is mired in third place, and if Jerry Bruckheimer wasn't producing half his prime time schedule, they would barely be ahead of the CW. In addition, the CBS prime time audience is old, and not particularly attractive to advertisers.

But, the biggest problem Moonves has is that the evening news has been a major bust. He hired Katie Couric from NBC's "The Today Show" to boost the CBS Evening News ratings (at a price of $15 million per year). At the time he lured her to the CBS team, the CBS evening news with anchor Bob Schieffer had increased viewership by nearly a million viewers. After an initial bump in the ratings with Couric's debut (mostly out of curiosity), CBS slid back into third place, even losing some of the viewers Schieffer had picked up.

Adding to the ratings slide has been an embarassing plagiarism incident involving Couric. Last week, Couric did a one-minute commentary last week on the "joys of getting her first library card," but it turns out that the piece was pretty much lifted from a Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Zaslow. Couric's commentaries, labelled "Katie's Notebook", are distributed to CBS TV and radio stations, and also posted on the CBS News website.

After being notified by the Journal about the plagiarism, CBS News apologized and fired the producer who wrote the commentary (Couric doesn't write the commentaries, just voices them, and personalizes them -- "I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books"). Aside from being embarassed, Couric was not punished for the incident, despite the fact that the commentaries are attributed to her.

So, with all hell breaking loose at CBS, the last thing Moonves was going to get into was a fight with his boss.

Another thing that bothers me is that some African American leaders calling for Imus' dismissal have their own apologizing to do, and have not made any moves to do so. Both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton helped pile on the three Duke lacrosse players when they were charged with rape.

For example, Jesse Jackson wrote a column for the Tribune Media Services that described the Duke case as follows: "Black women; white men. A stripper; a team blowout. The wealthy white athletes -- many from prep schools -- of Duke; and the working class woman from historically black North Carolina Central. Race and class and sex ...The history of white men and black women - the special fantasies and realities of exploitation - goes back to the nation's beginning and the arrival of slaves from Africa. The patterns associated with this history arouse fears and evoke too many bad memories." He also promised that the alleged victim, even if her allegations were not proven in court, would be provided with a scholarship for her education so that "so she will never again, in an act of desperation, have to expose her body. She should never again have to stoop that low to survive. That happens to all too many women."

In addition, Al Sharpton, in an interview with Bill O'Reilly, claimed: "He [Nifong] would not have proceeded if he did not feel that he could convict. So it tells me that all of what you said is either not true or he has convincing evidence that would certainly knock that out and no one is not letting him proceed."

Almost lost in the media blitz over Imus this week is that the North Carolina attorney general not only dropped the charges against the Duke lacrosse players, but declared them "innocent" of all charges.

While it was certainly appropriate for Sharpton and Jackson to call on Don Imus to apologize for his racist and sexist slurs against the Rutgers team, it is also appropriate that they be called on to apologize to the three Duke lacrosse players. If they fail to do so, then I think it is fair to call them hypocrites.

In the meantime, so long Don Imus. But, I'm sure it won't be for long. I am confident that satellite radio is in your future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Idiot NBC Hypocrisy and Idiot Stunt

MSNBC cancelled the simulcast of the "Imus in the Morning" show today. It's not clear if CBS, which airs the radio show, will eventually cancel the program as well.

Prior to the cancellation, a number of sponsors -- Procter & Gamble, American Express, Staples, GM -- announced that they were pulling their ads from MSNBC. Yet, NBC News President Steve Capus said they dropped Imus because "the reputation of this news division means more to me than advertising dollars."

"This is about trust. It’s about reputation. It’s about doing what’s right."

Really? Then how come Imus wasn't cancelled on Monday?

I'm sorry. I wasn't born at night and, even if I was, if wasn't last night. To say that the advertisers' decisions did not have anything to do with the decision to drop Imus is tantamount to saying that Ann Coulter is not a spawn of Satan.

But, as ridiculous as Capus' statement is, it does not come close to the actions of Gary Smith, host -- or should I say former host -- of the "Gary in the Morning" show on WSBG-FM in Stroudsburg, PA. Yesterday, Smith held the usual Tuesday "Phrase that Pays" contest. The twist is that listeners were to call the station and say "I'm a nappy headed ho" three times. Winners got tickets to a NASCAR promotion.

After reviewing the tape of the Tuesday broadcast, the VP of the station fired Smith, who had worked at WSBG for 17 years.

The station fired Smith for his comments. I would have fired him for stupidity. I would also ask that the state force him to have a vasectomy so that he can't breed and lower the overall IQ of the population.

Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Idiot Imus

What a great scene this would have been: Last Wednesday, when Don Imus was discussing the Rutgers women's basketball team's championship game loss to Tennessee, he said, "Man, that Rutgers team was aggressive, and athletic. Plus, all their players will graduate, most with B averages and above -- unlike the men's teams, where many of the players are barely eligible academically, and many don't ever graduate."

It didn't happen -- only in a dream I had during a brief nap today.

Yesterday, I wrote about how the media have given Imus' ill-conceived comments disproportionate attention over the lies of the Bush Administration, particularly those of Vice-President Darth Cheney. That doesn't mean I don't think Imus acted like an idiot. He did. Anyone who watched the press conference of the Rutgers women's basketball team today could not help but be impressed by their intelligence, maturity and humanity. They're anything but "nappy headed hos."

My friend Claire made a brilliant, if troubling, observation today about Imus' remarks -- about how easily and smoothly they were communicated. They were not part of a drunken tirade, like Mel Gibson, or a moment of uncontrollable anger, such as with Michael Richards. The comments emerged as a rather comfortable back-and-forth rap between Imus and producer Bernard McGuirk. What that shows is how easily in this era of talk radio and cable commentators -- whether it is "nappy headed hos" by Imus, the "halfrican candidate" by Limbaugh, or "faggot" by Ann Coulter -- the line of what our society deems as acceptable discourse can be crossed.

That is what is most troubling about what Imus did.

Maybe this will be a tipping point -- a place where the media will draw a line and say "no more of this."

Given how profitable these shows are, I am not holding my breath. But, I can still dream scenes like those above.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Idiot Disproportionate Reactions

Last Wednesday, on his radio show (also simulcast on MSNBC), Don Imus made some ugly racist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. In describing the team, who lost the NCAA women's title game to Tennessee the night before, Imus observed. “That’s some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos ...” At that point, the show’s executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, interrupted: “Some hardcore hos.” Then, rather than chastising McGuirk, Imus continued, “That’s some nappy headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that.”

To quote Jay Leno, Don Imus "What were you thinking?"

I don't know if Don Imus is racist in his heart or not. He supported Harold Ford, Jr. last fall, and he has helped dozens of children of color on his ranch for children with cancer and blood diseases. But "nappy headed hos" has to come from somewhere. Maybe it's bad synapse firings from years of past cocaine abuse. Maybe it's something psychologically deeper, and darker.

Imus apologized on his radio show on Friday, and in a much more in-depth fashion today. He planned to go on Al Sharpton's radio show today, and to meet with the Rutgers women's team to apologize. He's not making any excuses for his behavior. He's not even planning to go into rehab, like others who have made recent racial or ethnic slurs, such as Mel Gibson and Michael Richards.

Still, many in the media, including the president of the Association for Black Journalists, are calling for Imus to be fired.

Just for grins and giggles, I did a Google search for news articles on Imus' comments. There were over 1500!

Yes, what Imus said was ugly, and as a media personality who reaches millions of listeners and viewers each day, he needs to be more responsible for what he has to say. While he can't take back what he said, he is taking responsibility for his actions.

Compare that to a leader who, when he speaks, reaches even more people, largely through news reports. Last week, Dick Cheney, appearing on the Rush Limbaugh radio program, insisted once again that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda that justified our invasion of Iraq. Cheney made this statement on a day when a government report came out that said definitively that there NO Iraq-Al Qaeda link. To date, over 3000 of our best citizens have been killed over this lie -- 30 just in the past week -- and thousands of others wounded, many maimed for life.

Yet, people are calling to end Imus' career. Yes, Imus' comments are inexcusably racist and ugly. But shouldn't we as a people be much more upset over the man who occupies the second highest office in the land who continues to lie about why we entered a conflict that has wasted so much money and killed so many?